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The nitty-gritty

Like most gardeners, I have a certain appreciation of grit, gravel and stone chippings. Versatile and useful, they are brilliant for improving drainage in recalcitrant, clay-based soil, in pots of any size, and as a way to bounce the sun’s heat off the surface of the soil, thereby protecting tender stems.

For some time, I have been collecting pebbles and adding them to the surface of the raised bed planted with herbs. In reality, this hardly aids drainage, and it doesn’t compensate for the over-heavy black soil that – unfortunately – fills the bed from top to bottom. Here, you can just about see a few of the stones under the chives beyond the thyme, which has taken over most of the bed:

Herb RB

Of course, this is also a way to find a home for the many stones and pebbles I turn up in the garden. Always intrigued by their shapes and colours, I put the less exciting ones to one side for drainage uses, and lob the others into the raised bed for – in theory – the purpose of providing a “natural” environment for our herbs.

But I think the word “grit” – ¬†prefaced by “true”, another little word with deceptive depth of meaning – has a different, entirely figurative, meaning in the context of gardening.

It takes adamantine mental strength, to paraphrase the yogis, to see a garden through a whole annual cycle of adverse weather, irrigation upsets, failed germinations, insect attacks, withered crops, resting fruit trees, split tomatoes, unexpected hybridisations, bee attacks. I could go on.

But I won’t. A few photographs speak volumes: caterpillar-chewed chard…


… fading baby squash (before it falls off the mother plant)…


… and an unhappy tomato plant…

Tomato plant

… with the ghost of some flowers but no tomatoes in sight, should help to give you the idea.

But – referencing that adamantine strength again – I’m keeping faith and not giving up. After all, I have to count my blessings:

  • One fig
  • Two melons
  • Three mangoes (I thought we only had two, but found another one!)
  • Four pears
  • And a new crop of lemons that will keep us going for five, even six, months.

Who said that gardening requires true grit?


<a href=””>Grit</a&gt;

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